Houghton praises his boys for winning AFC Challenge Cup

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New Delhi, Aug 14 (UNI) Exactly a year after bringing Indian football on the path to revival with the Nehru Cup victory, coach Bob Houghton today lauded his wards for another historic victory in the AFC Challenge Cup 2008.

''We started with the Nehru Cup victory on August 14 last year.

Exactly a year ago. It has been a good year. It is a culmination of all the hard work the boys have put in,'' Houghton told UNI.

''The boys deserve this win. This is a result of team work along with a lot of hard work.'' The much travelled Englishman, who has also coached the national tams of China and Uzbekistan, was all praise for Sunil Chhetri who struck a hat-trick in the final.

Chhetri put in sizzling performance, showing just how much he has improved in recent times. Each of his three goals was a treat for the eyes, and sent the boisterous capacity crowd into wild celebrations.

''Someday he will be a big star. When he gets more international exposure, he will improve with time and will become a big star for India,'' Houghton stated.

''The amazing thing about Chhetri is he wins all the aerial balls.

He never loses a challenge. He is brave, he is honest, hardworking and a team player. He has got all the qualities needed to make an excellent player,'' he added.

He was also pleased with goalkeeper Subroto Paul, who came up with several brilliant saves in the second half.

''Paul is athletic. He is a good one. But he needs to cut out the rashness. He has come a long way.'' Houghton gave credit to the ''much maligned'' All India Football Federation (AIFF) for playing its part in the run up to the tournament.

''The much maligned AIFF deserves credit. It was a really good preparation. We went to Portugal, we played against Chinese Taipei.

The AIFF did some good work,'' he said.

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